We've documented how CNSNews.com columnists were very much Putin appeasers before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a stance that has not held up well. Let's look at how have they have taken the invasion as the war has continued.
Before the war, the Cato Institute's Doug Bandow was very much in appeasement mode, declaring in January that "Nothing suggests that Putin wants what can never be given. He went full isolationist in a Feb. 28 column, writing of Ukraine: "Stuck in a bad neighborhood, it faces a limited invasion by Russia. Such a conflict, though horrific, would have little direct impact on America." He then seemed to justify the invasion: "No doubt Kyiv is stuck in a bad neighborhood and Moscow is acting badly. However, throughout most of America’s history Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union."
Bandow continued his isolationism in his March 2 column, while finally admitting the war is not justified:
Russia has done a great wrong against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. And the American people personally need not remain "impartial in thought as well as in action," as President Woodrow Wilson once demanded. Even now many are organizing to aid Kyiv’s cause.
However, Washington must stay out of the conflict. As painful as it might be to some, America’s role really is to look "on from a distance." In that way it best serves those to whom it is responsible, the American people.
In his March 7 column, Bandow's isolationism continued:
Vladimir Putin’s government bears responsibility for the terrible crime of invading Ukraine. However, American arrogance, ignorance, and recklessness contributed to today’s crisis. As Washington responds to Russian aggression it also should learn from its past mistakes. Otherwise, history seems bound to repeat itself with deadly consequences.
That link goes to a coumn he wrote last ytear complaining that talk of admitting Ukraine into NATO was not "reassuring for Moscow" and that it "turned the Putin government hostile."
In his April 4 column, Bandow was still trying to find a way to blame to U.S. for Russia's invasion by talk of NATO:
Vladimir Putin and his ruling coterie are responsible for the unjustified and illegal invasion of Ukraine. Western policy toward Moscow since the Soviet collapse was foolish, even reckless, but that in no way justified the Russian attack. The Putin regime is responsible, and its crime will prove disastrous for the Russian as well as Ukrainian people.
Yet blame for the tragedy now befalling Ukraine – thousands of dead, millions of refugees, major cities bombarded, economy disrupted, society ravaged – is shared by the U.S. Washington again has demonstrated that its policies matter to the world. Usually in a horrifically negative way.
As has been oft detailed in recent days, the U.S. and European states blithely ignored multiple assurances made to both the Soviet Union and Russia that NATO would not be expanded up to their borders. The allies also demonstrated their willingness to ignore Moscow’s expressed security interests with the coercive dismemberment of Serbia, "color revolutions" in Tbilisi and Kyiv, and especially support for the 2014 street putsch against Ukraine’s elected, Russo-friendly president.
Whether such actions should have bothered Moscow isn’t important. They did, and perceptions are what matter. In this case, perception was reality. Indeed, Washington would never have accepted equivalent behavior by Russia in the Western hemisphere – marching the Warsaw Pact or Collective Security Treaty Organization up to America’s borders, backing a coup in Mexico City or Ontario, and inviting the new government to join the military alliance. The response in Washington would have been explosive hysteria followed by a tsunami of demands and threats. There would have been no sweet talk about the right of other nations to decide their own destinies.
Prior to the war, Ted Galen Carpenter -- like Bandow, a fellow at the Cato Institute -- was similarly blaming the Russian invasion on talk of letting Ukraine join NATO. In a March 22 column, Carpenter complained that "The dominant media narrative is that the U.S. government (and all Americans) must "stand with Ukraine" in the latter’s resistance to Russian aggression," adding that "the purpose of the current propaganda offensive is to generate public support in the United States for Washington’s military intervention on Ukraine’s behalf. This time, the American people need to recognize pro-war propaganda in the news media for what it is, and not take the bait."
Lawrence Vance of the Mises Institute was parroting the isolationism of Ron Paul as an argument to not get involved in Ukraine. In an April 4 column, Vance huffed that "Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some conservative hawks — like those connected with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — have been squawking about the need for the United States to not only pay close attention to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, lest China attack and conquer Taiwan, but also to increase aid to Taiwan." He also touted how "Russia’s issue with Ukraine has been admirably explained by David Stockman"; in one column, Stockman called Ukraine a "rump state" run by "anti-Russian fascists and oligarchs" and that the "obvious solultion" to the war is for Ukrainian leader Volodomyr Zelensky to resign, give Russia the Crimea and the Donbas region and amending Ukraine's constitution "to prohibit its joining NATO or any similar western alliance, while reducing its military to a domestic law enforcement agency."
Ryan McMaken, also of the Mises Institute, was insisting that Russia wasn't that much of a geopolitical threat. He used a March 8 column to complain that the U.S. won't recognize Russia's claimed spheres of influence while pushing its own.
And then, of course, there's Pat Buchanan, pet columnist of CNS editor Terry Jeffrey, who worked on Buchanan's presidential campaigns in the 1990s. Before the war, he was rooting for Putin and blaming Russian aggression on, yes, talk of admitting Ukraine into NATO. He has kept that narrative up during the war:
- In a March 4 column, Buchanan complained that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Estonia if Russia invades it because it's a NATO member, further whining that "Whether we go to war for a nation that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc should be a matter for decision by the Americans of that day and time — not mandated, not dictated by our signature on a 73-year-old treaty, devised for another era and another world."
- Buchanan raged against NATO again on March 8, pondering, "Did Ukraine's trolling for membership in NATO trigger Putin's war?"
- Buchanan was upset in his March 11 column about the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO: "But Finland is the size of Germany and has an 833-mile border with Russia, which would be NATO's largest. Is it really credible that the U.S. would declare war or go to war with Russia to secure Finland's border?"
- He argued for isolationism in his March 18 column: "America's desire today may be to inflict a defeat on Putin's Russia. U.S. vital national interests, however, dictate a negotiated peace."
- In his March 22 column, Bechanan demanded "a formal declaration by Kyiv that it will never join a NATO alliance created to contain Russia and, if necessary, defeat Russia in a war" as a condition to end the fighting.
- Buchanan used his March 25 column to blame Ukraine for fighting back and making Russia think about using nuclear weapons against it: "When did the relationship between Russia and Ukraine become a matter of such vital interest to the U.S. that we would risk war, possible nuclear war, with Russia over it?"
- Buchanan was calling for capitulation again in his April 8 column, after noting that "Ukraine and Russia have suffered greatly" from the war: "Thus, the sooner this war ends, the better for us and our friends — even if it means having to talk to the man Biden cannot stop calling a war criminal and clamoring for his prosecution."
- He freaked out again about Sweden and Finland joining NATO in his April 15 column: "Why is it wise for us to formally agree, in perpetuity, as NATO is a permanent alliance, to go to war with Russia, for Finland? ... Russia's invasion of Ukraine today is partly due to the U.S. and Ukraine's refusal to rule out NATO membership for Kyiv."
CNS sure seems to like columnists who will blame anyone but Russia for invading Ukraine.